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Latest On Padres’ Infield Plans

There were some rumblings last October that the Padres were considering asking Xander Bogaerts to play another position than shortstop, and manager Mike Shildt seemed to confirm that plan during an interview with Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  As part of the Q&A piece, Shildt’s response to the question of Bogaerts’ position with “That’s a good question.  Right now he’s playing shortstop.”  The situation could be still somewhat speculation, as the newly-hired manager said that he had yet to talk “in earnest” with Bogaerts about the situation, but implied that the conversation would come during Spring Training.

Bogaerts played 53 games as a third baseman with the Red Sox during his first two Major League seasons, and has played a handful of games as a designated hitter.  Otherwise, Bogaerts has exclusively lined up at the shortstop position, amassing 11675 2/3 innings at the position while posting +0.8 UZR/150, -31 Outs Above Average, and -54 Defensive Runs Saved.  These metrics have been more positive in the last two seasons, however, with Bogaerts delivering +2.3 UZR/150, +8 Outs Above Average, and +1 DRS.

Questions about a possible position switch have followed Bogaerts for years, dating back to his days in Boston.  These same criticisms followed Bogaerts into the free agent market last winter, though they didn’t prevent him from landing a mega-deal in the form his 11-year, $280MM pact with San Diego.  Agent Scott Boras was insistent on marketing Bogaerts as a shortstop during his free agent push, though Bogaerts himself said “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” last fall when asked about changing positions.

Bogaerts hinted that he’d prefer playing second base in the event of a change, which could make for a pretty smooth swap of Bogaerts at the keystone and Ha-Seong Kim moving over to shortstop.  Kim was the NL’s Gold Glove winner for utility players in 2023, as he played mostly at second base but also showed some good glovework as a part-time shortstop and third baseman.  Kim and Bogaerts trading place would certainly look like an on-paper defensive upgrade for the Padres’ infield, and while Kim is a free agent next winter, shortstop prospect Jackson Merrill is on pace to be part of the MLB roster perhaps even before 2024 is out, let alone for the 2025 campaign.  Merrill (a consensus top-20 prospect in the sport) could be the long-term answer at the position, so Bogaerts’ move to primarily second base work might be coming sooner rather than later.

Manny Machado’s near-term future is also a factor here, as Machado underwent elbow surgery in October and it isn’t yet clear when he might be ready to resume his usual spot at third base.  Shildt gave a positive update on Machado’s status, saying the All-Star infielder “is killing his offseason” preparations and that Machado is “on pace to be able to be ready offensively” so DH duty seems like a strong possibility for the start of the season.  Playing the hot corner is still somewhat up in the air, though Shildt said “he has an opportunity to start the season at third base.  He’s on target to be able to get some opportunities to play in Spring Training at third base, but I’m not gonna put any timeframe on it.”

It doesn’t sound as if Machado will miss too much time in the field, though since the Padres start their regular season with a two-game series with the Dodgers in Seoul on March 20-21, getting Machado at third base by this earlier edition of Opening Day sounds like a stretch.  Playing third by early to mid-April seems more feasible based on Shildt’s comments, though as the manager noted, it is still soon to tell.

If Machado isn’t a DH-only player for too long, utilitymen Matthew Batten and Eguy Rosario can cover third base in the interim.  Kim might become an option if Machado needs more time to be fully ready, plus Tyler Wade and Mason McCoy are in spring camp on minor league deals as further infield depth.


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